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History of Women's Bathing Suits


A Bit of Structure (1950s)

The corsetry and structure of '50s suits was just as formal as the decade's cinched and corseted clothing.
The corsetry and structure of '50s suits was just as formal as the decade's cinched and corseted clothing.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The curvy ideal of the 1950s (see Marilyn Monroe) was, for many, an attainable one, since "real women have curves." But the question was, were they the right curves?

And the other question was, what were corset manufacturers to do when women stopped wearing corsets?

The answer to both of these questions was the structured swimsuit of the '50s. This one-piece had built-in corsetry, basically boning in the bodice to flatten the tummy, cinch in the waist, pop out the bust, and keep the whole thing generally secure in the water. It had a low leg that, while unflattering on most of the "real women," provided some added modesty for coed sunbathing.

And then, oh my, came the '60s...


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